It’s interesting that Wanko herself should have mentioned cliché, because in terms of Sankarea she represents pretty much every cliché in the book. The childhood friend, the violent tsundere, the sexpot, cousin romance… In a very unconventional show she’s quite conventional, which has its pluses and minuses. Her tendency towards random acts of physical abuse feels pretty played out, but at least this episode wasn’t composed mostly of close-ups of her boobs and butt, which seems to be where the camera is normally pointed about 90% of the time when she’s on-screen. In addition to providing the full dose of tropism she seems to provide most of the RDA of fanservice, too.
What did we learn from this trip down memory lane? Well, to be honest nothing much of consequence – it was more a question of adding some flesh to the bones of what we already knew than offering any new information. Wanko’s interest in Chihiro was so transparent that even he was aware of it, but it’s officially confirmed in her own words. Her family’s restaurant is Kyoto-ryori, and her parents moved their business from Chiba when she was six. Her father is Chihiro’s uncle on his father’s side, which makes them first cousins (ick factor – moderate). Chihiro was a zombie otaku even at four years old, Wanko was already scored of horror, and both of them were crybabies. Nothing really surprising is revealed there – it all might not have been spelled out that way, but I don’t think most of our guesses would have been far off of that.
So what was the point of the excursion, then? Honestly, I’m not sure. I’m not a huge fan of episodes-long diversions that break up running storylines unless they fundamentally change the dynamic in some way, and this one doesn’t appear to have done that. Its purpose seems to have been to flesh out Wanko’s character more but when we learn nothing we didn’t already suspect, it’s of questionable value, seems to me. And to be honest, if we were going to take such a detour for such a purpose I’d rather it have been for Mero – who seems more interesting to me and has less fleshing out already. About the only stealth attack I can see here is a possible connection to Chihiro’s mother – we don’t see her even in flashback, and Doon makes reference to her being absent taking Mero to the hospital during Ranko’s visit when she was four and still living in Chiba. I suppose her family might have moved closer to help out Doon after his wife died – or there could be a connection to the “Sada” that Jogorou keeps talking about, but why wouldn’t Chihiro recognize his own mother’s name? His Uncle acts a bit off, too, saying nothing above a grunt, but I don’t know that there’s anything significant to that.
If indeed there’s no smoking gun of the type described above, what we’re left with was a nice, fairly amusing look at Wanko and Chihiro as toddlers. I did enjoy how incredibly goofy-looking he was as a kid, and the little touches like her “Spooky” Snoopy wallpaper. Chihiro’s excitement at getting a “flucky” zombie flick (with terrible Engrish) from his dealer at the video store was pretty amusing as well, though I suspect there was some loose translation involved there. And this ep absolutely confirmed with me that Yasutaka is a lead anchor that drags everything to a halt whenever he’s on screen – he’s like a character from another series entirely, and not a good one at that. Please – no more.